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  • Retail Top 100 2012, No. 2: Apple

Despite Amazon’s steady march of progress throughout 2011, Apple, true to form, managed to out-dazzle the world’s biggest online retailer every step of the way. The company continued to lure consumers and business users away from desktop computers to the more manageable environment of iOS devices such as the iPad, hastening the day when general-purpose computers are the province of software engineers and tech enthusiasts.

The year began with an effort to broaden the iPhone market beyond a single carrier by terminating Apple’s exclusive partnership with AT&T and announcing that the iPhone 4 would be available through Verizon. January also saw the launch of the Mac App Store, Apple’s effort to remake its Mac OS ecosystem in the image of iOS, and thus collect a 30 percent cut of Mac app revenue in the process.

In February Apple became the first computer maker to introduce Intel’s Light Peak data transfer technology under the name Thunderbolt. The iPad 2 came out in March even as competitors were struggling to deliver an answer to the original.

In October Apple announced a breakthrough set of free cloud services that keep stored data up to date across all devices, including PCs.

The company sold 72 million iPhones (nearly double the total for 2010), 32 million iPads, 17 million Macs and 42.6 million iPods, generating $108 billion in revenue in 2011 — up 66 percent from fiscal 2010.

However, Apple’s many marketing, business, and technology achievements through the year were overshadowed by the death of Steve Jobs on Oct. 5, the day after Apple introduced the iPhone 4S. Under the guidance of corporate America’s most high-profile practicing Buddhist, Apple made function not merely inseparable from form, but indistinguishable from it. In Jobs’ hands, the two truly became one.

Download the complete Top 100.

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